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Columnist Sharon Nesbit celebrates the renovation of the old Troutdale Rail Depot

NESBITWe celebrated the renovation of the old Troutdale Rail Depot Saturday. Lots of people there. You'd think a train was stopping to pick up passengers. The old building, built in 1907, must have enjoyed the wall-to-wall crowd.

We amateur historians would like you to think that the depot's new life in Troutdale on the other side of the tracks was a well planned, well thought-out program worthy of a story in Preservation Magazine. How geniuses and architects got together and saved a crumbling building.

But, in fact, all it really ever needed was people who cared. And whoever had a dollar. That was what George Skorney wanted when he called me years ago offering to sell me the old Union Pacific Depot, then on the north side of the railroad tracks.

"A dollar?" I asked. "A dollar," he said. Those Union Pacific railroad guys are tricky. A thousand dollars and one would shake one's head at remote possibilities. But a dollar?

Of course there would be expenses, but when you are confronted with a blazing deal, your good sense about all the complications in taking possession of a rail depot go out the door. I knew right away it couldn't be my depot because there was no place in the front yard to put it.

So I called the mayor of Troutdale, Bob Sturges, and told him about the screaming deal because Bob could never pass up a bargain, and he was a sucker for history and old buildings.

As it happened, another mayor, Glenn Otto, had already acquired for back taxes, a lot on the right side of the tracks, kitty-corner from city hall.

No thinking person would ever lay out the odd boundaries that resulted but the depot had a home with a slope that would permit a basement. Sturges needed a place to house Troutdale's growing police department. Who wouldn't want a railroad museum in a railroad town?

Then the 1976 Bicentennial came and there was money for historic projects, and another mayor, Sam Cox, got just enough cash to put a dent in the cost to move it. One day Emmert Construction came with a big truck and hooked up the depot to drag it across the tracks to its new home. Then they went back and got a bigger truck because it was really heavy.

We first painted it red. Weren't all depots supposed to be red? And put a rail museum in one side and the police department in the other. And then city parks moved in and when they found another home, the chamber of commerce and so on. We added a rail car and caboose outside.

Now the depot has seen another renovation. Troutdale's new visitor bureau is there and there is more to come. This time we picked up the linoleum and restorers cleaned the wood floor and counters. You can see the nicks and gouges of a hard life. The children of the men who worked there turned out for the ribbon cutting by yet another mayor, Randy Lauer.

You can tell people that it only cost a dollar. And the ghosts of Troutdale mayors will shake their heads ruefully. But it says something about Troutdale that they love the building and keep it safe.

Sharon Nesbit is a former Outlook news reporter. She writes her column in her retirement.


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